If you are the parents of children, one of the more difficult tasks you might encounter will be getting your kids to eat a balanced diet full of healthy food. One of the best ways to encourage your kids to enjoy those healthy foods is by getting them out into the garden with you. In this day and age, with modern gardening concepts for urban gardening becoming more popular by the minute, you no longer need an enormous plot of land. You can experiment with container growing a few vegetables in a raised bed, or planting a few of your favorite edibles into your current landscaping. Maybe you don’t have a lot of room to grow outdoors, consider container gardening tomatoes, herbs, or micro-greens. Consider growing vine ripened edibles next to a trellis, such as beans or squash, provided the trellis can handle the weight of fully grown vegetables. Herb gardens are rather easy to grow, require very little effort, and are cost efficient, making them the perfect gardening model for beginners, adults and children alike. The benefit will come in the form of hos growing a garden affects the body, mind, and soul of the children.
Gardening & The Mind:
There is no shortage of scholastic information you can discuss with your children while growing a garden. Recent studies have shown that children who are active in gardening projects, either at home or through a school sponsored club/activity, score higher in studies such as science, math, reading comprehension and memory retention, that their non-gardening counterparts. If you get your children into gardening at an early age it may spark an interest in all of the subjects previously mentioned. They may begin asking questions like: Why do plants need water? Why do plants grow in the sun? Why do we leave worms in the garden? How do we keep bugs off the plants? The next thing you know, you and your kids will be discussing what plants to grow next year, what kind of soil the new crops should be grown in for best results, where to find information on composting, what role photosynthesis plays in gardening, etc. Toss a little math into the gardening equation by measuring distances between plants, counting the number of rows in the garden, counting the number of plants, determining how much each plant produces, and before you know it, your children will start doing better in math. Add in plant identification books, gardening guides, vacations to botanical gardens, etc., and your children will start to develop better reading and comprehension skills too.
Depending on what you grow in the garden, the fruits of your labor may provide additional brain-boosting benefits in the form of vitamins and minerals, which your children will take pleasure in consuming since they had a hand in creating it. Children are more likely to “try” vegetables they “don’t like,” if they’ve invested the time to grow them, and several of them have been shown to improve cognitive functions of the brain when consumed on a regular basis.
Gardening & The Body:
In addition to helping improve brain functions, the vegetables and fruits your children are encouraged to eat as part of their hand-grown healthy diet, will also have a positive impact on their bodies. Just being active in the garden will help support their healthy little bodies. Children love to get dirty. Put them in a garden full of rich soil and before you know it they will have their hands, feet, and face covered in dirt, guaranteed! While this may seem to run contrary to modern “germ-free” parenting concepts, studies now indicate that the lack of exposure to germs during early childhood, often increases susceptibility to germs, bacteria, and viruses. Let your children get dirty and it might just strengthen their immunity systems.
Gardening can also involve a lot of work. The bigger the garden, the more work; the more work, the more physical activity, and as we all know, physical activity is good for the body. Physical activity will promote the healthy development of motor skills, strength and overall fitness. Physical gardening activities also help children remain calm, focused, and on task, which often translates to their other interests and activities outside of gardening.
Gardening & The Soul:
We live in the Age of Technology & Information. Our children are often inundated with real time notifications of all their friend’s minute by minute activities and updates. Gardening provides the down time kids need in order to reconnect with their families. Time spent in the garden helps improve interpersonal communication skills as well. Gardening, in its entirety, from planning through harvest, gives children a sense of accomplishment, and they develop a greater sense of responsibility through attending to the daily maintenance and management of the plants in the garden; watering, fertilizing and trimming them. Children will also develop a much deeper respect for nature and the planet through an introduction to composting (including food scraps) and activities like collecting rainwater, neutralizing and improving soil conditions, etc.
Studies have shown that children exhibit better moods, reduced stress and anxiety, and better cognitive function when they come in contact with soil while growing the garden. They have also show that children who consume food they grew with their own hands, have much better self-esteem than those who do not. Isn’t it time you get your kids involved with gardening, even if it’s on a small scale?